2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 The Ultimate Design

Written by Paul J. Bucknell on March, 10, 2022

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 The Ultimate Design

Embracing God’s ultimate purpose for our lives swallows up life’s difficulties and leads to unending joy.

11 To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 NASB).

An Introduction to 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

Every once in a while, God grants us a sneak peek into the ultimate design for the Christian life. 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 is one of these Bible passages and provides a grand view of God’s intentional way of working with His people. You might have spotted similar incredible praise verses in the Old Testament, like these by David.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart exults, and with my song I shall thank Him” (Psalm 28:7).

4 One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord And to meditate in His temple. 5… He will lift me up on a rock. 6 And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord” (Psalm 27:4-6).

Such passages allow, even welcome, His people to live beyond the preoccupation of the sinful and earthly. Insights into God’s work in and through our lives provide a new and thoroughly rewarding outlook on life. In each case, we find David awed at God’s work in his life: a delight in Him combined with deep satisfaction in His relationship with God. Through Paul’s teaching and his prayer, we know God wants this for all of His people.

We will first exposit 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, which establishes a three-stage repeating cycle that reveals how God intends to work in His children and follow through with an illustration and study questions. It’s time we use God’s Word to renew our minds (Rom 12:2) and grasp God’s ultimate design for our lives!
An exposition of 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

    1. The Supreme View (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)

“To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power. “So that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ”” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).

To better understand God’s ultimate design, let’s take a close look at 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 where Paul describes the ongoing cycle of wonder, composed of three stages.

Stage 1: Desiring and doing the Father’s will (2 Thes 1:11)

“To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power” (2 Thessalonians 1:11).

Paul appropriately highlights God’s grand plan and prays for its full effect to take place in their lives as they show themselves worthy of God’s investment in them—“will count you worthy of your calling” (2 Thes 1:11).

Paul continues to note the specific ways God works out His goodwill in their lives. Paul supports them and prays that God might “fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith.” “Every desire for goodness” speaks of the Spirit of Christ’s inner motivational work in us while “the work of faith” is the enabling of His people to carry out God’s will in concrete ways (cf. Phil 1:6). This inner direction and carrying out of God’s works runs similar to how the Spirit led Jesus to fulfill His Father’s will (John 5:19-20).

God works out His miraculous plan in our lives. We identify and wonder at His priceless work in us by insights gained from His Word, steadily gazing at His impulse of love bearing forth these good desires. His love is replicated in our lives by being born in us and worked out to compassionately and sacrificially reach out to others, rather than pleasing or benefiting our own lives. Once we observe that God is not out there to please us but exercise His love through us, we can be excited about God’s grand plan, which includes us; otherwise, our viewpoint, though injected with some spiritual insights, still resembles the world.

In summary, our chief job is to learn how God generates His work in you; it’s God’s work powerfully working in you. Don’t be so consumed with your service that you are blind to how He loves others through you!

Three Stages to Reach God’s Ultimate Design (2 thes 2:11-12)

Stage 2: Praising Christ for God’s work in us (2 Thes 1:12a)

“So that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:12).

Paul wants and prays for God’s grace and desires to come to fruition (11); but note verse 12. “So that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess 1:12).

Verse 12 reveals the purpose of God’s work in us and shows how everything in our lives becomes a vehicle to bring praise to our Lord Jesus. He further enriches our lives as more of Jesus is glorified in us, and so we need to keep in mind that the reason God fulfills His holy work in us is to glorify Jesus Christ in our lives. Though we’re rewarded and enriched, the greater purpose is to glorify the name of Jesus Christ. This is the reason boasting in our works, no matter how ‘good’ they are, is unholy, confusing our source of power.

Ephesians 1:3 begins with “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” God’s spiritual blessings undoubtedly come to us, but if we miss the full purpose, we stop short by being self-absorbed with the blessings. We fail to catch the overall goal for which these blessings come—that the name of Jesus Christ be praised! So how does it work?

When we focus on our life events, we become distracted by those things and fix our attention upon them. This short-circuits God’s greater purpose He has for His people. He works in us so that we observe His tremendous favor working in and through us, causing us to bless Him further. We marvel at how God is able and willing to work in sinful human beings like us to bring exultation to Christ. The Lord Jesus incomprehensibly lives out His glorious ways through our lives!

But there is one more step or stage that Paul inserts, where we can observe the completeness of this repeating cycle.

Stage 3: Fulfilled by Christ’s Work in Us (2 Thes 1:12b)

“So that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:12).

God marvelously works in us to heighten our wonder of His glorious purposes. This third stage, identified with the words “and you in Him,” completes the repeating cycle by bringing total spiritual satisfaction to our lives. By observing God’s great works in us (stage 1), we respond with praise and adoration of Christ’s work (stage 2). It ends with our supreme satisfaction in Christ—“and you in Him” (stage 3).

This marvelous instilling of God’s will in our lives begins a marvelous entwining of our souls with our Lord. Paul unabashedly proclaims it’s all “according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” God does all of this not because we deserve it but because of His extraordinary kindness (i.e., through His grace). It’s not just our salvation that comes through God’s grace but our sanctification too. Observing God Almighty’s work in us leads to a fully satisfying and growing relationship with our Lord, ultimately relishing Him above all. Because it’s a cycle, this repeatedly causes our relationship to grow! Our intimate relationship with Him supersedes the excellency of His work in us but is indelibly bound together.

We delight in God’s amazing work in and through us, but the ultimate design is for us to delight more in Christ. This is the pinnacle of God’s work when we love God with our whole being.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut 6:5).

All these God-given blessings—miracles, encouraging words, warnings, etc.—exist to reveal the glory of Christ further (stage 2). Our delight in Him accordingly stretches beyond these visuals of God’s grace in our lives by humbly, but nobly, further fixing our adoration on our relationship with the Giver of the promises—to Christ Himself.

2. An Illustration of God’s Excellent Ways

Let me further clarify the two elements from verse 12 that we have identified: so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him (Stages 2 and 3).

(Stage 2) The first astounding observation, “in you,” calls us to acknowledge the Lord as our sole source of blessings, spiritual gifts, and participation. This leads us to praise Him as the empowering source for those good works. The Giver gave the spiritual gifts to cause us to reflect and delight in His glory. Never divorce yourself from God’s ultimate plan for these gifts. These things are not for our use but to serve others and magnify Christ.

An Illustration

Consider an elder sister who sees a lonely young, burdened-down mother. She consoles and encourages the young mom. Christ is glorified in the way she observed the need, brought comfort, and pointed the mom’s heart to the Father’s care. This example portrays just what Jesus would have done. The Lord’s Spirit worked through the elder sister to accomplish it. This work is quite remarkable but not the final picture.

This same sister doesn’t pat herself on the back but observes how Christ put this need on her mind, gave her confidence, prioritized her schedule, and trusted God to give her words to speak. God empowered her with this “desire for goodness,” that is, to show His love to her. She should not say, think, or conclude, “This is just what I always do.” That attitude would be rude, though it appears to be humble. Instead, she should be in awe at how God gave her those thoughts and words to bring Jesus’ love and words to that mom. This is how thanks and joy should fill all our lives. We see God’s amazing way of working through us and so praise Him for it all.

“Is He worthy? ……He is!”

(Stage 3) But this adoration of Christ is not the end, though it soars far above the world’s selfish ways. We need to be aware of how God uses these experiences and observations of His work in us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18).

Closely following the phrase “the name of Jesus being glorified in our lives” are the words “and you in Him.” The words are simple “you in Him,” but describe how He rockets us into God’s throne room to worship. While being fixed on His glory, we are completely engaged in fellowship with Him. You ask, “What fellowship? What does it look like?”

We become aware of God’s marvelous work through us at a certain point. It might be a helping hand, a sermon, a prayer for the lost, etc. God causes good things to happen through us, but this is not just a mechanical process where He uses us.

It’s a series of gracious steps that reveal that we are not just vehicles of His cosmic work, but His divine intention to wonderfully involve us in Christ’s loving service. His wondrous glory in us evokes our deepest gratitude and emotions. We become overwhelmed at how Christ chooses to manifest His good and loving ways through us sinners. Jesus expresses His wonderful love for us by including us in His grand plan. The focus is no longer on you or me, nor on the amazing good works fulfilled in or through us, but on our enchantment with Christ who so masterfully works within us. This whole cycle provides insights into how our eternal lives will operate.

Reaching this ultimate goal releases us from the world’s clawing gravity into the spiritual delights of God’s presence, calling us all to draw close to Him. He further opens our hearts by having us observe His work in us, even as flower petals open wider for the sun’s full gaze.

Neither God nor we, His children, lose our identity in this process. In some religions, such as Hinduism, this absorption of one’s identity becomes a characteristic of salvation, largely because sin is associated with flesh/body. True, our sin is unacceptable before God, but it finds complete forgiveness in Christ.

Our praise to Christ Jesus increases in magnitude as we willingly carry out His will, recognizing His substantial part in implementing it in us. The joy—the “you in Him”—marks the overall satisfaction of the mysterious but good way He works in us, causing us to grow to treasure Him steadily.

Summary

Our greatest good is not the good works, but our praise from observing His wondrous hand at work in us. All through our lives, God seeks ways to stir our adoration of Him by pouring out His abounding grace in us to complete His will. He astounds us by allowing us to catch a view of all the good He implants in us. And so, all is from Him, through Him, and to Him.

“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Rom 11:36).

When these insights from 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 raise our view, we see the overwhelming love of God in Christ, causing us to seek more of His fellowship and less preoccupation with the world. These three stages form a constantly repeating cycle where we further observe God’s great works in our lives, deeply touching our hearts with His eternal love.

2 Thessalonians 1:12 A Growing Spiritual Relationship

Bible Study Questions on 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

11 To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 NASB).
Other References by Paul J. Bucknell on Seeking God’s Will

  1. What are one or two reasons Christians argue with God’s plan or will for their lives?
  2. When was the last time you got frustrated with how God worked things out?
  3. What does God instill in us so that we can do His good works (2 Thess 1:11)?
  4. Read Luke 10:20. What did Jesus tell His disciples to rejoice in despite their ability to perform miracles? Why?
  5. Paul describes the ultimate design in 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12. Write it down and underline the most important words for you.
  6. What is the first stage of what the author calls God’s ultimate design (11)?
  7. Describe how the first stage works (11).
  8. What is the second stage (12a)? What does it mean?
  9. What does “you in Him” (ie. the third stage) mean (12b), and how does it differ from stage two?
  10. How is the “in you, and you in Him” (2 Thes 1:12) related to Jesus’ words in John 15:7-11?
  11. List one way He works in you and praise Him for the desires and opportunity to live it out. Regularly seek the Lord by observing what He does in you.

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